Escape from LA - Part Two

In this second of our two-part series, Alfie Crow handicaps which teams are the likeliest to make a move to the vacant Los Angeles market. Oakland? San Diego? Jacksonville?

The next team who is a candidate for relocation is the Oakland Raiders. We're going to touch on the Raiders situation briefly, as I'm sure we all know why they might move: Al Davis is old and crazy. Aside from Davis' lack of mental well-being, the Raiders often struggle with ticket sales, have been a perennial loser for the last five seasons, and have major stadium issues.

With that said, I will move on to San Diego. San Diego might as well be in Los Angeles as it stands, and with most of the other teams mentioned they have stadium issues. They have yet to work out a long-term stadium deal, which would make the move two hours north very tempting. Currently Chargers brass wants to try and get a stadium deal done in near by Chula Vista and move out of the outdated Qualcomm Stadium. Oddly enough, San Diego is one of the few teams in the NFL with a lease that would allow them to move in the time frame that Ed Roski is looking to begin building his proposed stadium in Los Angeles. If the team pays off its $56 million debt to the city remaining from its 1997 expansion of the stadium, the team can move wherever it wants. Currently however, Chula Vista is busy worrying about building a resort hotel on the bay front instead of a stadium.

Finally, we move on to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Many of the reasons that most national media members claim Jacksonville is a prime candidate to move are because of their struggles to fill the stadium. Well, most teams would struggle to fill a stadium that greatly outdoes its market. Jacksonville Municipal Stadium at full capacity seats 73,000 originally and has been raised to seat 76,877 recently. In 2005, owner Wayne Weave decided to tarp over 9,713 seats in order to avoid blackouts and make the stadium size more in synch with its market. Jacksonville certainly erred when they originally built the stadium, however the city also had obligations to some college football games such as the Gator Bowl and the Florida vs. Georgia game. Just looking at raw numbers, in 2007 the greater Jacksonville metropolitan area was listed with a population of 1,300,823 people. This means that in order to fill the current stadium, which is only 14 years old, would require 1 in every 17 people in Jacksonville attend the game. The city of Chicago, for example has a population of nearly three million people. The Bears play in Soldier Field which has a capacity of roughly 63,000. Judging by those statistics, only 1 out of every 47 people need to attend Bears games to fill that capacity.

The story that "broke" last week in the Philadelphia Daily News about the Jacksonville Jaguars being sold to C. Dean Metropoulos hinted at the team to Los Angeles sooner rather than later. That would be rather difficult considering Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has professed that his team is not for sale, and Los Angeles doesn't have a stadium to suit an NFL team any time soon. The team was supposedly being sold to C. Dean Metropoulos through the Galatioto Sports Partners. Doesn't that name sound familiar? That's probably because it is. In June of 2007, the Florida Times-Union reported that "They (Jacksonville Jaguars) have hired a New York investment firm, Galatioto Sports Partners, to help them find new investors so they could reduce their $110 million debt." Some simple research could have been done to save the city of Jacksonville and owner Wayne Weaver frustration for a day, hearing another false report about their team being sold and moved to Los Angeles. Wayne Weaver issued a statement the following day saying "This team is not going to California. This team is the Jacksonville Jaguars. I don't know how I can do anything more to reaffirm my commitment. I want our fans to get as excited as I am. Everybody wants me to speculate on the future. I'm not going to speculate on the future. At some point, maybe, I would sell the team, but not now. Whatever happens in the future, I can assure you of one thing: The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be the Jacksonville Jaguars."

When asked about the teams interesting in finding minority investors, Weaver had this to say—

"That's always an option, but if I ever do that, it'll be with someone who shares the same passion for winning football and to be part of the Jacksonville ownership," Weaver said. "Until there's a solution to the L.A. market, you're going to have speculation. I can tell you the Jaguars aren't one of the teams lining up to go to L.A."

Unless Wayne Weaver is an outright liar, which he has proven himself not to be, the Jacksonville Jaguars will not be leaving Jacksonville anytime soon. Maybe its wishful thinking for Jaguars fans to hope that these stories will cease for once and the city can go through a season without constant talk of possibly moving to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, there will probably be another story about the Jaguars moving in the next couple of weeks, it is inevitable. Jacksonville is the easy target. It's a small market, it struggles to sell tickets at times, and it's not anywhere on the national media radar. As I've pointed out, there are teams in far worse situations than the Jacksonville Jaguars. I don't believe a single team in NFL history has moved without there being a stadium issue. Jacksonville is not in that situation, and will not be in that situation for quite a few years.


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